Curt Swift
CSU Extension Horticultural Specialist
Grand Junction Free Press Gardening Columnist

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April 26, 2012
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Are you ready for this summer's drought?

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Colorado has a drought somewhere within its borders every year and with the low snow pack in our mountains and the low reserves in some of our reservoirs, it appears this year western Colorado is likely to suffer from just such a drought.

March 2012 tied 1966 for the driest year on record in Colorado and it was our third warmest March on record since 1895. According to the April 2012 Drought Update, all major basins of the state have seen significant declines in snowpack and all continue to be below normal for the year with "severe drought conditions ... reintroduced in the San Luis Valley and established throughout portions of the Yampa/White, Colorado and Gunnison River basins."

In 2002 some of the water providers in western Colorado were short of water by July, and watering restrictions were mandated. Based on what I have read it sounds like that won't happen In the Grand Valley, at least for those provided with treated water, but that might not be the case for those provided with irrigation water much of which comes from the Colorado River.

With the Colorado River running through our valley, people typically feel there is adequate water and we should have access to as much as our little valley needs. One needs to remember, however, that this river provides the needs of 30 million people in seven states as well as a portion of Mexico.

Colorado has an obligation to provide water to others along this river system. One also needs to remember that much of what we eat comes from our southern neighbors who depend on Colorado River water. Some local people grow their own food and see no need to leave any water in the river for the millions of acres of vegetables, cotton, and livestock in California and other Colorado River Compact states many of us depend on. What will happen to the millions who live in Los Angeles and Orange counties if the Colorado River dries up? Where are all those people going to go? They just might decide to move to the Grand Valley where water is perceived to be in abundance.

You can assist in preventing water restrictions and all those millions of people invading the Grand Valley by properly adjusting your irrigation controller (clock). This will ensure no more than what is needed for your lawn and landscape plantings is applied. Keep in mind that every drop of water matters. You might need to make adjustments to your sprinkler system. Do you have leaking pipes or broken sprinkler heads or nozzles that need to be corrected? If you have a nozzle that is watering the road or sidewalk it usually is a simple procedure to fix. Sometimes new nozzles are required. If you have a major leak you might need to hire someone to dig up that area and fix the problem or you might be able to do it yourself using a saw, wet-n-dry primer and glue, and a slip-fix connector. I'll be covering all these items in the workshops I'll be conducting in May.

There are several publications at that give step by step instructions on how to adjust your irrigation clock so it provides the water requirement of your lawn and no more. When you arrive at my turf web page click on "Setting Your Irrigation Clock." You can also call 970-244-1836 and ask the Master Gardener on duty to send you this information. If you call after business hours leave your address and what you need and it will be mailed to you the next business day. I have developed handouts for those who live in the Grand Valley (from Palisade to Fruita), Montrose, Delta, Rifle, and Vail so be sure to ask for the information that applies to your community.

To further assist you in reducing your landscape water use I will be conducting workshops in May for those who want to learn more about sprinkler system problems, how to correct these problems, and how to adjust your irrigation clock. My intention is to provide you the information you need to make your system more efficient so you can save water yet maintain a high quality lawn and landscape. I will also be giving classes for those who want to do irrigation audits and have questions on designing and installing their own sprinkler and drip irrigation systems. The City of Grand Junction and other domestic water providers are planning on assisting their customers with irrigation audits and I want to ensure there are people available to do these audits. You might be interested in such a job or simply want to learn how to conduct your own audit to improve your own irrigation system. I'll be scheduling these sessions based on your needs so give us a call at 970-244-1836 and let us know when these sessions would best fit your schedule. The Master Gardener on duty will take your name and contact information and record your preference of date and time. To help you learn more about Colorado's drought you can call 970-244-1836 and ask for the drought information I've referred to in this column or go to and click on Drought Information.


Dr. Curtis E. Swift is the area horticulture agent with the CSU Extension. Reach him at, visit, or check out his blog at

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 26, 2012 09:41PM Published Apr 26, 2012 09:39PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.